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Archery is a sport most people have tried or would like to try and this year a lot of people to decided to make that goal a reality. In fact, most people I talk to inform me that they have previously tried archery in high school or camp years ago, and loved it. This conversation usually occurs while the parent accompanies their child to try archery. I always take a moment to encourage the parents to fling an arrow or two, which always results in the same reaction: a big grinning smile and a desire to shoot more arrows.
Modern archery equipment and a bit of instruction can lead to instant gratification, and that is one of the reasons archery is so popular. Archery is also a lifetime sport that can be enjoyed by youth, adults and families, and it also happens to be downright fun. The influx of archery enthusiasts to the sport is a great thing! USA Archery promotes archery education and athlete development through the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) program. JOAD Clubs are the heart of archery grassroots program development and provide a place for archery education, athlete development and - last but not least - camaraderie. In recent years clubs were also given the option to add an Adult Archery Achievement club designation, thus accommodating all age levels.
It is no secret that JOAD Clubs are grassroots level training grounds and can serve as a pipeline for Olympians, Paralympians and World Champions, as well as top-level coaches. Four of the six athletes on this years' Olympic team once participated in JOAD. But JOAD Clubs are also a place for beginners to find their niche, form friendships that last a lifetime, and potentially become lifelong archers.
Going into 2012 there was plenty of excitement brewing at USA Archery because it was an Olympic year. I accepted the position of Outreach Director in April right smack in the middle of all the hoopla. Working at USA Archery during an Olympic year allowed me to witness all of the preparations that go into coordinating qualifying events and the extensive media coverage both the sport and the athletes received. In addition to it being an Olympic year, the movies "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" were released, adding even more buzz to the archery frenzy. It also added a sense of urgency to my plate, knowing USA Archery needed to be prepared to handle the influx of new participants who felt inspired to try archery.
USA Archery has long possessed a High Performance team to recruit and ready athletes for the Olympics, but never an Outreach Director. The hiring of an Outreach Director was the result of CEO Denise Parker's commitment to place an enhanced focus on the importance of grassroots archery program development and to provide fundamental support to archery where it matters most, in the local communities. While most USA Archery staff were in London cheering on the team, I was driving 1300 miles from Michigan to Colorado where USA Archery is headquartered with one goal in mind: to help re-energize the organization's Outreach efforts. I watched the men's team claim silver on an NBC live stream on my smart phone mounted to the windshield of my car somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, and I couldn't have been more excited for the future of USA Archery.
Since arriving in Colorado Springs USA Archery has hired a full time JOAD Coordinator, Callie Grieser and a full time Outreach Assistant, Jo Chouinard. With these appointments and with the support of Outreach Manager Darine Erskine, USA Archery's Outreach efforts have been significantly enhanced.
The Outreach staff manages the Junior Olympic Archery Development Program, Adult Achievement Program, JOAD Xperience Program and the After School Archery Program. The Outreach staff also provides support to State Associations, the JOAD Committee and JOAD State Coordinators. In addition, they also support instructor certification and coach development efforts nationwide.
It is our priority to make sure existing JOAD Clubs and USA Archery programs receive adequate support and customer service. In fact, you may have already began to see improvements, with the addition of our online club locator (http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Archery/Programs/Find-a-Club.aspx) and most recently, online ordering of program awards and instructor certification packets (http://usarchery.drivemarketing.com). An online instructor certification renewal feature is also now available. These improvements were made to make the business of being involved with archery easier to transact and with quicker results for the customer.
The dedication of the JOAD coaches and club leaders does not go un-noticed and the Outreach staff is actively making additional improvements to programs and materials to better support your efforts. However, we also realize there is a limit and a capacity within clubs, and therefore a need for more coaches and more clubs to support the growing interest in the sport.
In recent months USA Archery has partnered with the Archery Trade Association (ATA) and the Easton Sports Development Foundation (ESDF) to coordinate resources to support USA Archery's efforts to grow archery programs nationwide. Focusing on grassroots program development, we are working to make sure archery becomes a mainstay in summer camps, local parks and recreation departments and other recreation serving organizations in the heart of local communities. As a result we hope to see the development of more archery instructors, coaches, programs, JOAD Clubs and archery events nationwide.
There is no doubt archery will continue to gain in popularity, and as it does, USA Archery is committed to providing the resources to help new archers, clubs and coaches reach their goals. There is no doubt there will be some hiccups along the way, as we work to add archery to areas where it traditionally has not existed or has been offered on a limited basis. But I can't think of a better problem to have.
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